We have seen thee, queen of cheese

I’m doing a lit­tle research on Cana­dian lit­er­a­ture of the 19th cen­tury. This is not a field that over­whelms the researcher with an abun­dance of mas­ter­pieces. Canada, at this time, was an empty, rugged, pio­neer­ing place, vaguely British in the soci­ety of its small urban elite, but for most peo­ple cul­tur­ally closer the the west­ern parts of the United States. Mon­treal had a mod­est lit­er­ary life in French, draw­ing on sev­eral cen­turies of folk­lore and even pro­duc­ing a few operas. These works were unknown in the rest of the French-speaking world. English-speaking Mon­treal­ers were more inter­ested in com­merce than cul­ture. Out­side of Mon­treal, the only real city, there was not much other than small towns, farms and wilder­ness.  Read more »

FILMSJUNE 2014

(Singer 2000) X-Men [Riff­Trax ver­sion]
(Barry 1975) Poldark: Ep.2
(Barry 1975) Poldark: Ep.3
(Sagal 1971) The Omega Man
(Slatzer 1968) The Hell­cats [Mys­tery Sci­ence The­atre ver­sion] Read more »

First-time listening for June 2014

24527. (Sol­dat Louis) Pre­mière bor­dée
24528. (Cole­man Hawkins) Desa­fi­nado
24529. (Armens) Une ombre
24530. (Giuseppe Verdi) Messa solenne
24531. (Giuseppe Verdi) Qui tol­lis
24532. (Giuseppe Verdi) Tan­tum ergo in F Read more »

READINGJUNE 2014

24537. (Thomas Piketty) Le Cap­i­tal au XXIe siè­cle
24538. (John Dry­den) An Essay of Dra­matic Poesy
24539. (Jan Michal Bur­dukiewicz) Microlith Tech­nol­ogy in the Stone Age [arti­cle]
24540. (George Mon­biot) It’s Sim­ple. If We Can’t Change Our Eco­nomic Sys­tem, Our
. . . . . Number’s Up [arti­cle]
24541. (Thomas Piketty) On the Long Run Evo­lu­tion of Inher­i­tance — France, 1820–2050
. . . . . [arti­cle] Read more »

Sibelius Quartets

"Kullervo paimenessa" (1896) by Sigfrid August Keinänen

“Kullervo paime­nessa” (1896) by Sigfrid August Keinänen

The concert-going pub­lic doesn’t asso­ciate Sibelius with cham­ber music, but he actu­ally com­posed quite a bit of it, includ­ing four string quar­tets. One of them, the Quar­tet in D Minor, Op.56, known as “Voces Inti­mae”, has made it into the stan­dard reper­toire. With it’s jaunty rhythms, pecu­liar twists and turns, and fre­netic pas­sages that must work up a sweat among the play­ers, it has won a place in the sun, though it’s not in the same league with the famous Beethoven, Bartók, or Dvořák quar­tets. It’s always been a favourite of mine, because it seems to con­vey a mood that hits me occa­sion­ally, for which there is no com­mon name. It was com­posed around the time of the stark, intro­spec­tive Fourth Sym­phony, and it shares some of its strange­ness. But Sibelius com­posed three oth­ers, sel­dom per­formed. The first, in E-flat, is a youth­ful effort with lit­tle to com­mend it. It’s just warmed-over Hay­den, con­structed by the book. But the sec­ond and third ones, in A Minor and B-flat, are lis­ten­able and enter­tain­ing. Sibelius pretty obvi­ously drew his inspi­ra­tion from Dvořák, but you can hear dis­tinc­tively Sibelian ele­ments in both. The B-flat one has evolved suf­fi­ciently to stand next to Voces Inti­mae with­out shame, and it should be played more.

FILMSMAY 2014

(Stephani 1936) Flash Gor­don [aka Space Sol­diers]: Ep.4 ― Bat­tling the Sea Beast
(Stephani 1936) Flash Gor­don [aka Space Sol­diers]: Ep.5 ― The Destroy­ing Ray
(Stephani 1936) Flash Gor­don [aka Space Sol­diers]: Ep.6 ― Flam­ing Tor­ture
(Stephani 1936) Flash Gor­don [aka Space Sol­diers]: Ep.7 ― Shat­ter­ing Doom
(Stephani 1936) Flash Gor­don [aka Space Sol­diers]: Ep.8 ― Tour­na­ment of Death
(Scardino 2013) The Incred­i­ble Burt Won­der­stone
(Stern 2013) jOBS Read more »

First-time listening for May 2014

24501. (Penn Kazh) mesKad
24502. (Giuseppe Verdi) Aïda [com­plete opera: von Kara­jan; Tebaldi, Simion­ato, Bergonzi]
24503. (Denez Pri­gent) Irvi
24504. (Kanye West) Yeezus
24505. (Open Folk) Bre­ton­stone Read more »

READINGMAY 2014

24500. (Th. Her­sart de La Ville­mar­qué) Barzaz-Breiz: chants pop­u­laires de la Bre­tagne
24501. (Hervé Lossec) Les Bre­ton­nismes
24502. (Khashchu­luun Chu­lu­un­dorj) Cur­rent Sta­tus of Mongolia’s Eco­nomic and Social
. . . . . Devel­op­ment and Future Trends [arti­cle]
24503. (Batchimeg Miged­dorj) Mon­go­lian Eco­nomic Back­ground and Polit­i­cal Des­tiny 
. . . . . [arti­cle] Read more »

Sunday, May 5, 2014 — In Search of Gildas

Grotto of St. GildasOne spe­cial trip, at my request, was to the chapel of Saint Gildas. Gildas is well-known to those who study Eng­lish his­tory in the “dark ages”, because his De Excidio et Con­questu Bri­tan­niae is the first writ­ten his­tory of Britain. In fact, it is pretty much the only doc­u­men­tary source for fifth and sixth cen­tury Britain. Bede’s His­tory doesn’t appear until the year 731. But Gildas spent part of his career on the con­ti­nent (he is sup­posed to have slain a dragon on a brief visit to Rome), and specif­i­cally in Mor­bi­han, where he died. There are two writ­ten biogra­phies of Gildas on which we depend for infor­ma­tion, but they were writ­ten respec­tively in the ninth and twelfth cen­turies, and tell very dis­sim­i­lar sto­ries. The ear­li­est life relates that Gildas con­verted the hea­then of the Blavet val­ley by stand­ing upon a great rock over­look­ing the river and shout­ing his exhor­ta­tions. That sort of thing, appar­ently, worked in those days. When some­one has already slain a dragon, he prob­a­bly has a suf­fi­ciently force­ful per­son­al­ity to pull it off. Any­way, the rock is still there, with a medieval chapel at its foot, and the place is won­der­fully atmos­pheric. It being before the tourist sea­son, Didier and I had it all to our­selves. Gildas lived, with one acolyte, in a tiny grotto under­neath the rock, still acces­si­ble, until he returned to his monastery on the coast and com­pleted Con­questu Bri­tan­niae. While the late medieval chapel was closed, I have found a pic­ture of its interior.

Chapel of St. Gildas

Saturday, May 3, 2014 — Some Architecture

14-05-03 BLOG The Blavet on a quiet bend

The Blavet on a quiet bend. I walked the path for a km and met nobody.

For such a short visit, I was able to see a good deal of the coun­try­side of Mor­bi­han. Didier drove me to a num­ber of won­der­ful places, and I also cov­ered a con­sid­er­able amount on my own, on foot, and did some hitch-hiking as well.

But rather than attempt to recon­struct where I vis­ited chrono­log­i­cally, or trip by trip, I think I’ll just present a gallery of images, with a few com­ments. Read more »